Time for a rant on a favorite gripe of mine.
There are folks who wonder why I'm not on BeerAdvocate or RateBeer or similar websites. I occasionally glance at them to do research. But there's an atmosphere prevalent at many such sites that irritates me, and it's best summed up by this type of inquiry that pops up commonly on such sites and forums:
"Can anyone tell me where I can find [Very Specific Beer, Usually Limited Production/Release] in [my area]? I need to try this beer."
No, no no.
You WANT to try this beer. Unless you are somehow being financially compensated for your tasting notes, or you're doing research and development for a brewery, or your family is being held hostage until you drink this beer in front of the kidnappers, or it's on the checklist of the next TV reality show race, you don't "need" to try any beer. Maybe it would be nice, but life goes on. Life is too short to worry about such middling details.
It's nice to have goals. And Lord knows, I've done my share of saying to folks "You really should try this beer!" And I'm not going to pass up an opportunity to sample certain beers if they cross paths with me. But when I see the "worst" of the "must have this beer" folks, I am distinctly reminded of a certain stereotype, and not a flattering one.
In 1991, Dr. Uta Frith presented a paper to the British Psychological Society, part of a series focusing on Asperger's Syndrome, then a relatively new diagnosis of a form of autism that has since received wider publicity. Her paper drew parallels between victims of Asperger's--characterized by unusual, narrow, and obsessive interests which can affect communication, imagination, and social interaction--and hobbies such as birdwatching and "trainspotting." Now, "trainspotting" is not simply having an interest in trains; it's compulsively checking off the numbers of locomotives seen on a checklist, perhaps traveling to other rail locations just to seek out specific locomotives. This leads British rail enthusiasts to loudly proclaim "I am NOT a trainspotter!!" if such is insinuated in conversation; it's possible to be a rail historian, photographer, or travel enthusiast without keeping a checklist of locos seen, just as one can walk through or volunteer with the zoo or aquarium without tabulating which animals one has seen.
Of course, this paper received widespread coverage in the British newspapers under the headline "Train spotters 'may suffer from autism'" (scan of said articles provided upon request). And, of course, I had the pleasure of reading it while I was in the U.K. ...... traveling about British Rail, visiting many steam excursion and "heritage railways" for special behind-the-scenes tours, talking with the museum curators and restoration experts. I think that article came out the day I took a trip through Kent to the Kent & East Sussex Railway, then detoured to Folkestone where they were holding a railway festival that included rides on the steep 3% grade from Folkestone Harbour to the mainline railway station, a line that is now history and torn up.......
Other examples cited by Dr. Frith: "a man who knew all there was to know about 50 types of carrot, one who collected details of light fittings in trains and one who learned the colours of the doors of all the magistrates' courts in his area. When he was asked why he didn't collect the door colours of juvenile courts, he said these bored him to death."
The parallels of this syndrome are many. Ever seen the obsessive Civil War re-enactor that can tell you the complete biography of the soldier he's portraying? Look at bird-spotting, comic-book collecting, Beanie-Babies collecting (does anybody even DO that anymore?), Japanese anime fans (otaku, which literally translates to "obsessed")............ and, yes, beer-list checking. When beer aficionados publicly proclaim a "need" to try a very specific beer that 99.98% of the public has never heard of, when they travel an hour or more just to sample one specific beer (as opposed to, say, partaking in a beer festival with 40 "new" beers), or they pay as much as $100 for one small bottle of beer and its shipping, they're crossing the line from hobby/interest to obsession. At least that's how it looks to the rest of the world. And even though I've never seen anybody of this ilk pursuing such an obsession to get drunk, that's also (unfairly, I agree) how it's going to look to others out there.
See also anorak --a term formerly applied to trainspotters that has recently been applied in Britain to the stereotype of "real ale twits"...........
μηδέν άγαν (mēdén ágan = "nothing in excess") : supposed inscription on the Temple at Delphi, according to Pliny the Younger
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